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Vietnam War

Life for a soldier during and after the war

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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
The war at home - a son in Vietnam
Life for a soldier during and after the war
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However, it was after the war, in 1975 and the following years, that the number of veterans with PTSD exploded. The war became an unpopular and controversial issue, and veterans didn't get proper support or help to prevent mental sickness. In total, as much as 30% of the veterans developed PTSD, approximately 20% of the 30% after the war itself. Many got "survivor's guilt", which is a common syndrom after a war, but not getting proper help/support is the mainreason why so many ended with mental sickness. The whole American society wanted to forget the war, and the veterans didn't get proper help or support from people in America.

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  To make sense of what it was like to serve in Vietnam, and what it was like to live after the war, I interviewed Rand, a Vietnam veteran.  

 Rand served two tours in Vietnam, with  only 30 days leave between tours of duty. In total he served for twentyone months in combat, from Feb. 1969 to Nov 1970.

 “The Vietnam War was very different compared with other wars. When you went over there, you didn’t go as a group where you had some friends. Instead, you went by yourself, and met a group there which became your friends. I also had a girlfriend back home, but after about six months I received a “Dear John” letter where she said that she was dating another guy. That happened to most ofguys who had left a girlfriends behind and going to the war. However, the troop morale was pretty good, so that it was not a big problem for me.” Rand said.

 I asked him how the war influenced his life, and he explains that the war probablychanged his life forever. “I was young, just 18 years old, and I remember that I was afraid to go home after my military service. Problems started immediately when we came back, people were demonstrating against the war at the airport and train stations and against us, many spit on us, and called us rude names, there were even posters with; “babykillers” and “murderers”written on them. Also, when I met my high school friends back in America after the war, we didn’t have anything in common. My life was just so different. The war had turned me into an old man before my age. When we came back, we were pretty much on our own, we didn’t get much support or help to prevent mental problems, and the issue of PTSD was taboo with the Veterans Administration. The V.A. hospitals didn’t want to tell veterans that they had developed the syndrome”, he told me.

 After the war, Mr. Miller was making a career in the Army,  but he quit in 1973. “I had developed mental Problems, PTSD, and it really became a problem at that time. I became depressed in early 75, and I could not keep going in my life. Some who returned home were able toimmediately go to college, and they managed not to have issues with PTSD or any other mental problems at all. They later developed problems like PTSD. In 1980 I started again fulltime, but I stopped after my junior year due to my employment with Chevron Corporation as a Geologic Technician in the Alaskan Exploration Group..”, he said.

 I ask Rand how the war influenced his family. “When I first told my father that I was going to Vietnam, my father did something that was strange to me. He offered me all of his savings, his car and a place to go to in Canada, because he didn’t want me to go to war. That was different than how he raised me, and it was not an option for me, so I went over there to serve my country”, he said. I know that the use of drugs was common during and after the war, so I asked him about that. I also asked him how he his life went on after the war. “From ’66, you could easily get drugs, especially marijhuana, in Vietnam. Myself, as most others, ended up using it. It made you feel better, though you were “high” most of the time. When I came home, I had a hard time dealing with my feelings, and using drugs helped me. Most veterans felt their feelings were a problem, and many also had a hard time understanding PTSD. In the years after the war, there were different levels of PTSD. Some had severe cases, and some didn’t get it at all. I guess I was somewhere in between. However, in 1978 some other veterans and I found out that our feelings were something most veterans had to deal with, and I became a member of a Veteran Organization, The Vietnam Veteran’s of America. I worked with other vet’s to get the right information to congress. In 1979 I was a member of the 7th Congressional Distict Veterans’ Affairs Committee for the Hon G. Miller in California.”

 One question I asked him if he still feels the effects of the war.  He said that he still feels effects from his time serving in the war. “It’s not as often as it was, but I once in awhile have nightmares. It’s also certain things, like smells and sounds, that remind me of Vietnam. For example, if I hear the sound of a certain type of helicopter, I start watching it immediately and I can’t get my eyes off it until it’s gone, during my second tour I flew a lot as an Army Ranger with the 75th Infantry. This is a normal reflex among manyVietnam veterans."

"However, I met my wife in 1976, and we were able to work through things. She helped me get on a good path again,  I am finishing my Bachelor’s degree, but, my memories from the Vietnam War will always be there”, Rand finished his discussion at this point.

Finally, I want to thank Rand  for telling me about his own experiences from the Vietnam War

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HHS - International Problems 2004